If there’s one thing in life that’s guaranteed, it is that you will fail. If you haven’t failed already at something in your life, rest assured that, somewhere, somehow, you will. This is not a bad thing, simply a fact of life. The sooner that somebody realizes and becomes comfortable with that fact, the sooner they can move away from the negative side of failure. What you fail at, ultimately is not important. What is important is that you’ve worked through failures, and what you take from those experiences.
If you don’t get back on that horse just because you’re afraid you’re going to fall again, then you’ll never get anywhere. Some of the world’s most influential people mastered failing before they saw their first successes. Fortunately for them (and for the rest of the world), these gifted individuals never gave up. Instead, they worked through people in recent history.
From the chariot to the buggy, to the motorized vehicle, cars have undergone some radical changes since their inception. Companies are still tinkering with the design and function of this great invention. None of this innovation would be possible, however, without Henry Ford. After leaving his parents’ farm at 16, Ford was an apprentice machinist for three years. Afterwards, he moved back home. He trailed between the occasional factory job and repairing steam engines on the side. He spent most of his early career running a sawmill to support himself and his newly created family. Ford finally landed an engineering job for Thomas Edison. (who himself is another example of success from failure). It was here Ford developed a new passion for Industrial Mechanics.
He was promoted to Chief Engineer and began to experiment with four wheels and combustion engines, eventually creating a vehicle he called the “Quadricycle”. Ford failed twice in his attempts to create an automobile manufacturing company. He finally succeeded in creating the Ford Motor company on his third attempt. It was years later still that he finally was able to make the company profitable by developing the moving assembly line. He is a great example of someone who worked through failures to ultimately succeed.
Lesson: Find Pride in Yourself Through Your Work
Although he was a proponent of education, Lincoln’s schooling was spotty over the limited years he could actually attend. He instead taught himself by reading next to firelight, borrowing books and frequently reading them multiple times. He later entered the Black Hawk War as a captain but was demoted to private before leaving. During this time, he decided to run for the Illinois General Assembly and lost. He had also been working in the village store, which closed due to the war. He opened another village store (some say tavern) with business partner William Berry, but it failed miserably and closed after just a few months.
A few years later William Berry died. He left Lincoln with a $1,000 increase his share of the failing store’s debt. Lincoln loses three more elections in his lifetime. However, his eventual successes as a lawyer and politician allow him to earn the nickname “Honest Abe” and become one of the most revered American Presidents in US History.
Lesson: Continue Moving Forward No Matter What Befalls You
Rowling’s life seemed to be on a path of normality through her college career. After studying for a year in Paris before graduating with a BA in French and Classical Literature, she found herself working odd jobs. One of which was a researcher for Amnesty International. While travelling with her then-boyfriend and waiting on a 4-hour layover, she began to conceive of the Harry Potter stories to pass the time. She started writing the books but was hit a traumatic bout of writer’s block catalyzed by the sudden death of her mother. She instead moved to Portugal to teach English. Then she married a local television journalist and had her first child. Just over a year later, she divorced and moved with her daughter to Scotland to be near her sister.
Upon returning to Scotland, she discovered she could not teach there without a postgraduate certificate, and while returning to school finished the first Harry Potter book. It was rejected 12 times, and even when it was finally published she was advised by her publishers to maintain a day job rather than to expect to live off of children’s books. Once it was published, however, she succeeded in getting a grant to continue writing the books, and the rest is history.
Lesson – Never Let Your Failures Ruin Your Passion
The ladder to success
These are, of course, just three examples of the infinite amount of stories of those who worked through failure. From artists, political leaders, business innovators, scientists, and just about any other spectrum of life you can imagine. Plenty of startups had rocky starts before they saw success–and there’s a reason for this. Successful people gain strength from their failures and consider these lessons in the truth of their success. These people were also all motivated by the inherent joy found in their own definition of success as opposed to money, something we’ve de-emphasized as a culture at large.
Once one makes it past those roadblocks, learning how to find value in failure and adopting self-motivation, success is just a matter of time. As Jeffrey Stibel said, “It took billions of years to create and define all of the world’s great cultures. Through failure after failure. So it is with arrogance alone that we executives think we can create and define one for our company.” So the next time you’re kicking yourself for your failings, realize that just by looking back and finding out where you went wrong, you are building steps in your own ladder to success.